Foundational Thoughts for my Belief System

{well, at least the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC)}

on this Rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it…. (Matthew 16:18)
The days are surely coming…when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah… I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my peoples.
(Jeremiah 31: 31-33)

To build the PCC, to strengthen its outreach we must renew our commitment to our roots: Presbyter = Elder. Of all the denominations, we are neither congregational nor episcopal. We practice the priesthood of all believers, God trusts us to jointly rule (clergy & laity). So we all have to participate because we need to know that we count — God needs us to provide balance. I am thankful to be part of a larger group of committed reformers, within a church built on a rock, fundamentally strong because of its adherence to the teachings of our Lord and Saviour and supported by a series of subordinate standards that establish a polity of order, respect, fairness and good government. As a Presbyterian church we want to do things right and in a correct manner: all members should be able to be thankful we are able to help achieve this; the church itself should be thankful that it has the responsibility to ensure that we help achieve this. We all must accept some leadership function(s).

Perhaps a key leadership style is that of a developer, helping others to realize their potential by action (showing/demonstrating), by facilitating new or renewed practice (hands on training), by challenging thinking outside the box (discussion/mediation). As appropriate such a person will push, pull, observe and reflect. Through cross-sectional grouping of people in workshop settings, these leaders can inspire them to revisit where they really want to go/be and create a viable corporate plan for their church. Through seminars and interactive lectures with specific organizations within the church, people can be led to understand the dynamics of change management and improved decision-making. Doing when necessary, invigorating others to do whenever possible leadership ought to enjoy the opportunity to assist others to make themselves stronger, more committed people of faith! In my case, an ability to turn up the energy and the commitment quickly and extensively makes me particularly useful in short-term tasks and interim assignments.

The Presbyterian faith since Jean Calvin and John Knox has been known for preaching the word. To this day, there is something over-powering about worshipping in Cathedral St. Pierre (Geneva) or St. Gile’s Cathedral (Edinburgh) or Glasgow Cathedral (St. Mungo’s) or Fourth Presbyterian (Chicago); but we sing the same hymns, read the same scriptures, hear the same Word in the smallest of our churches and in the quietest corners of our Presbyteries. Our tradition emphasizes we communicate the Good News: we speak in the tongues of the listener, we read with the passion needed to up-lift the hearer, we worship as a group connected world wide. This gives me great joy and presents an awesome challenge, whenever I believe I have been called to help. For example: My extensive and diverse range of expertise combined with a studious mind and a good sense of oratory honed initially as a child & grandchild of the manse, permit me to deliver a good sermon.

There is a wonderful yet pressing challenge facing the reformed faith wherever it is found: to empower people to realize they matter, they have a contribution to make to the world around them — whether that is local, regional, national and/or international; whether that is one on one, small group or large gathering. Those who would provide leadership from the pulpit need to seize the opportunity to motivate, inspire and assist people within our congregations to see the challenges around us as being our challenges, using the talents that each of us has (whether we be like Lydia that successful businesswoman in the New Testament or like Timothy that full-of-potential youth or like Abraham that seemingly too old and too tired former leader), and attempting to make life fairer and more just for all. With a multitude of varied experiences in the worlds of business, academia and government combined with training in education, politics and theology my talents helps me connect effectively and with a sense of relevance across a fairly diverse spectrum of members in our Presbyterian faith as well as the kaleidoscope of our communities.

We have been commanded by Christ to go into all the world and preach the gospel: we need to let Him show us that part of the world where He will effectively and individually use us. The key theological issues that we face can be somewhat neatly summed up in Haberer’s book God Views. But there is more. We need to merge our personal beliefs and theological perspectives into a commitment to stand strong not obstinate, to reach out and embrace not stomp out and demand. Church unity does not mean sameness nor without differences (after all we are all different parts of the same body): it should mean convergence and persistence (trying to make that body function to the glory of the God who created us): an on-going commitment to discern how best we can bring God’s kingdom to the world and prepare the world for entry into God’s kingdom.

Today our church is needed to provide a beacon again in our communities showing a way to avoid the shoals and the rocks, providing a sense of security against the unknown, and simultaneously requiring individuals to take responsibility for helping get others through the storms of life. No more acting like the pharisees: we must be accepting of our need to be challenged, to have our commitment checked and verified, to be ready to assist others by addressing their concerns. And, all the while, we must be prepared to study and examine continually God’s Word for us.

And in our utter most reflections on the relevance of Christianity today, we must always place forgiveness at the forefront of our theological foundations and our daily practical living. We must constantly demonstrate that having faith means having the perpetual capacity to forgive. Moreover we must never forget that when invite others through prayer and conversation to join us in our faith journey, we must seriously commit to practising forgiveness on a litany of layers of living. Vengeance is the Lord’s, we are commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves and to do good to them that hate us. It is a difficult assignment, and not always one that we will succeed at; yet, if we wish to church to have any lasting influence (let alone significance) this is the foundation stone that we must adopt. For in the end, there are only two [2] commandments that must be adhered to:
1. Love God
2. Love our neighbour

And if we need a daily devotional to assist us in carrying our faith forward, we need go no further than the prophet Micah 6:8
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?
Not necessarily even a recommendation only for those of the religions that sprung from the Middle East, but certainly a requirement for a good Presbyterian!!